Union solders have stolen The General, a Confederate train manned by Johnnie Gray, who was unable to enlist in the Confederate army because he is needed as an engineer.
The Union plans to use the train to supply its soldiers in a sneak attack against the Confederates.
But now it's up to Gray and his love, Annabelle Lee, to reclaim The General, recross enemy lines, and warn the Confederates.
The General based on a real incident during the American Civil War when a posse of northern soldiers hijacked a confederate train and a lone southern engineer found himself fighting the lot of them alone.
Reviewer:B-Movie Ben -
March 29, 2009 Subject:
He's a disgrace to the South.
Johnny (Buster Keaton) won't be marching home, as he is not allowed to enlist. His girl Annabelle (Marion Mack) won't speak to him because of it. They don't realize he is needed an an engineer.
The Yankees steal his train and Johnny jumps into action, not knowing that Annabelle is captured and on the train.
The chase is both funny and exciting as a chase should be. The Yankees try all manner of tricks to get away, and Keaton stays after them bumbling along.
Soon, he is behind enemy lines still chasing. Soon, he is on foot and finds out the enemy plans and has to rescue Annabelle. The scene with the bear trap is pure magic.
The chase is now reversed as he tries to get back to Confederate lines before the Yankees catch him. Annabelle wasn't much help and provided some great comedic moments.
As expected, Johnny does, in fact, come marching home finally and is made a Lieutenant.
April 15, 2008 Subject:
A complete, clearer copy can be found here:
July 15, 2007 Subject:
Stravinsky as the soundtrack
I've been watching and re-watching this film regularly over the years to the music of Stravinsky. Two albums in particular work magnificently well:
1. Stravinsky's "Chamber Works" with Vladmir Ashkenazy playing and conducting the European Soloists Ensemble (Decca)
2. Stravinsky's miniatures published as "Shadow Dances" by the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra (Deutsche Grammophon)
May 10, 2007 Subject:
Forty years before Peter Sellers, Buster Keaton brilliantly combined humor and pathos in this absolute gem of a film. If a better copy can be found, it should replace this one, but in the meantime this one will more than suffice. The stunt work is phenomenal (and truly harrowing when one considers the absence of safety precautions-- the actors and/or stunt doubles literally risked life and limb to deliver some of these scenes), and some of the gags are still laugh-out-loud funny 80 years later.
However, this is no frothy, slapstick farce, but rather a study in love, patriotism and dogged determination. It also may be one of the first nationally-released films to portray the Confederates as the "good guys", all the more interesting when you consider that in 1927 there were people still alive for whom the Civil War was a childhood memory.
This deserves the famous "Two thumbs way, way up", and I'm sorry I don't have more thumbs.
Reviewer:Peter Bacion -
March 11, 2007 Subject:
Please delete incomplete versions of movies
As I understand it, this wonderful site --for this site is nothing less than just that-- is a Library of readily-available material.
A movie, like this copy of the ingenious The General, may be oversaturared. Furthermore, a silent movie may have a soundtrack that does not appeal to all tastes.
No library should set out to include incomplete copies of the items they offer. The average book library around your corner does not, fromthe start, include novels from which pages 1 to 20 are missing (the odd page may be missing afterwards, but the library is not to blame).
So at least, Internet Archive, please do not include movies which are overtly incomplete.
Keaton's The General: as good a movie as anyone could ask for -- 5 stars.
Exclusively because of incomplete copy (not because of saturation or soundtrack): this is an absolute BUMMER -- 1 star
February 18, 2007 Subject:
Still Holds Up
There are better quality versions out there, pricey, but cleaner and full copies. The audio on this version is good.
This film is a true narrative, not the typical Keaton style of stringing together slapstick visual elements for effect. With this in mind, The General is not overly funny. There are moments, rare and situation-specific, but nothing frivolous. Rather, we are given long, beautiful set-ups which add tension while propelling the story.
I found the picture quality to be ok, although it did start about 10 minutes into the film. The one thing I was a bit disappointed with was the choice of music.
Carl Davis' score just seems (to me) to be absolutely perfect. Maybe it's because I'm used to it? Oh well. I still enjoyed it!
August 24, 2005 Subject:
Best music score
The music in this version is far better than any of the orchestral scores out there. Anyone know where to get this on DVD or VHS???
August 22, 2005 Subject:
I downloaded the MPEG2 copy of this film, and I agree this is a oversaturated copy of what it seems to be a colored copy.
However I enjoied it.
Reviewer:Tom Knight -
August 16, 2005 Subject:
Great film, terrible copy.
The MPEG 2 version is unusable!
It appears to start some way into the film, and the video quality leaves a lot to be desired.
Sorry to be negative!
Still, the film *is* a fantastic one, and I'd love to see it again after a few years without. A note to any who want to buy this film: make sure you get a copy with the Carl Davis orchestration, it adds a lot to the experience.
August 13, 2005 Subject:
Good movie; terrible transfer
I genuinely appreciate what does get uploaded here, but I figured I would warn others against downloading this particular copy, due to its oversaturation of light. The screenshots don't seem to capture the shortcomings of copy I have before me. My download was the MPEG2 version.
August 8, 2005 Subject:
"If you lose this war, don't blame me!"
It would be easy to go on for days about the millions of merits of The General, from its crisp photography to its Matthew Brady compositions to its immaculate eye for accurate historical detail to Keaton's mastery of every aspect of filmmaking, but it's easier to sum it up this way: it's hilarious, and it holds up.
When it comes to the silent comedies, Keaton was the funniest. Sure, Lloyd and Chaplin placed, but Lloyd's ostentatious physicality and Chaplin's downright maudlin pathos and nostalgia really hurt their films' chances of enduring appeal. But Keaton had understatement, and Keaton had a keen, almost prophetic sense in knowing that his jokes would still be funny 80 years later. And The General is his comedy masterpiece, and it truthfully gets funnier every time.
Buster Keaton plays Johnnie Gray, an engineer on the Western and Atlantic Railroad (whose train is called The General). The Civil War breaks out, and when the army won't take him for reasons he can't understand, his girlfriend refuses to speak to him. A year later, his train is hijacked by some Northern spies and gives chase--alone. He also doesn't realize that they coincidentally took his girlfriend hostage when they stole the train. He finally makes it deep into enemy territory, accidentally sees and rescues his girlfriend, and hatches a plan to steal back his train and warn the South of the coming attack. Of course, he succeeds, and admirably, but it would be shameful for me to explain just how and how well.
This isn't comedy delivered with a crowbar and a laugh track. It doesn't operate on the buildup-punchline scheme. It relies on subtlety and perfect timing, and it relies on Keaton's stoic face in the midst of any obstacle, and his character's ongoing knack for escaping any situation with accidental panache and quick-witted flair. The well-discussed "Keatonesque hand of fate" is operating full-time here, and half of the fun of the movie is getting to see the good guy beat the bad guys. The jokes are satisfying because they don't often rely on dark humor or satire which, while legitimate forms of comedy, always leave one feeling empty. Here, the comedy revolves around ingenious ways to escape impossible predicaments. So each joke works on two levels; it makes you feel good because of the direction the story's going, and it's a legitimately funny gag. Comedy theorists still wonder why no one can write comedy quite this way and this well anymore.
Rather than wax on about the perfections of the plot, the characterizations, and the ballet-like precision with which the jokes are executed (and the fact that all of the train chase shots, which are most of the movie, are filmed on actual trains), I'll refer you to the imdb.com page and the filmsite.org page:
I could list funny scenes, but I'd be listing the whole movie. Really.
The General is truly one of the world's greatest cinema masterpieces, in any language, in any genre. It has made Sight And Sound's listing of the 10 greatest films ever made (any genre, any language) several times. The fact is, this is Keaton's funniest, this is the silents' funniest, and as far as I'm concerned, it's darn close to all of cinema's funniest. It holds up, and it works.
More than five stars out of five.
August 7, 2005 Subject:
Not the funniest of Keaton's films but entertaining nonetheless. Much of this was filmed about 20 miles from where I live. I understand that the locomotive that was thrown in the river from the burning bridge lay in that river for decades.